All You Need to Know About the Chinese New Year
Welcome to you!
This week, come and discover the Customs and Traditions of the Chinese New Year, a mythical event celebrated all over the world! ?
Also known as the Spring Festival, this large scale event remains unknown to the Western world. We invite you to dive with us into the heart of the Chinese celebrations and tell you its secrets. ?
The Story of the Chinese Spring Festival
The Chinese calendar is already a full-fledged calendar: it is opposed to our solar calendar (Gregorian calendar), it is therefore called lunar calendar. It has its own holidays, and even its own zodiac! For example last year, it was the year of the dog, and the year before the year of the pig. The zodiac signs have an enormous importance in Chinese astrology.
This year is the New Year of the Metal Rat.
A) the Appearance of the Chinese New Year
It is not known exactly when the ancestors began the celebration of this festival. Some believe that its origin comes from the religious ceremony of the Shang Dynasty (1122-1766 BC). Others believe that it began much earlier, during the reign of Emperor Yao and Shun (~ -2300 BC).
Here is a short list of the evolution of New Year’s Eve celebrations at different times in history:
?Emperor Yao and Emperor Shun (~2300 BC): Chinese New Year on a very small scale.
?Shang Dynasty (1122-1766 B.C.): New Year celebrations begin with religious ceremonies.
?Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.): New Year’s Day is officially established as the first day of the month and cracked bamboo appears, similar to modern fireworks. This would scare away evil spirits thanks to the powerful sound it produces. ?
?Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.): Use of fireworks in celebrations.
B) the Legend About This New Year
Like many myths and legends, the origin of this traditional festival is the existence of a mythical creature. ⚔️
In this case, it is a monster called “Nian“. This being resembled an ox with a lion’s head and lived in the sea. On New Year’s Eve, when the moon appeared, Nian went out to harm people, animals, and property.
It was then that people discovered that the creature was running away from red, fire, and powerful sounds. So to protect themselves, they got into the habit of hanging red lanterns and throwing fireworks. ? Well you don’t have to believe it, but at least you know the legend, it’s always good for general knowledge.
Today more than ever, the festival is celebrated whether in China or elsewhere in the world. As you can imagine, the Lunar New Year is surrounded by many traditions, each one more original than the other, and which must be respected to the letter. ?
Modern Celebration of the “Lunar New Year”.
A) Preparations for the Chinese New Year
Preparing well for the celebration is vital in Chinese culture to live a year of joy, health and prosperity. ? As the most important festivities of the year and also the longest celebration in the world (15 days), you will see that everything is calculated to the millimeter.
Home Preparations ?
Essential element not to cause bad luck. Traditionally, a thorough cleaning of the house is carried out, from top to bottom, and the decoration is installed in a festive manner. Some examples: We arrange the furniture in a certain way, we throw away dead plants, we put incense, we decorate everything with red, gold, and Chinese calligraphy called “chūnlián” . In short, everything is square.
The Chinese rely heavily on Feng Shui, which is the art of arranging one’s environment to optimize the circulation of energy in order to reduce stress and calm the mind, and thus have a better quality of life.
Keep in mind that a dirty or disturbed house is a house that attracts evil spirits.
Preparing Yourself ?
Like most parties, the goal is of course to be as well prepared as possible, so to be “dressed up”. On New Year’s Evening, you put pictures of your loved ones everywhere at home, and you put on red clothes or accessories to attract luck. No need to be entirely in red, a simple element is enough!
Go Shopping ?
It’s part of the celebration, or rather its preparation. Since the shops are closed on the first days of the New Year, you should get there as soon as possible.
It’s an opportunity to buy important things:
?? Food: Especially if there are guests, it will be necessary to buy a lot of snacks and ingredients to prepare the copious meal of the party: rice cakes, beans, sticky rice…
?? Clothing : New outfits, especially red ones, are purchased for family gatherings, ceremonies and temple visits.
?? Gifts: Candles, Chinese lucky charms, candies…these small gifts are very popular and are offered as a sign of love for one’s neighbor. Alcohols, teas, fruits or flowers are also very popular gifts. For children, we typically offer a red envelope ? called hóng bāo in which money or sweets are placed. Lanterns and lampions are also important in the tradition.
Settle Its Debts ?
Whether it is at the level of the banks or of one’s neighbor, it is good for karma to settle one’s debts. It is an opportunity to return things you borrowed, to forgive your neighbor if you have been in conflict in the past, and to give him a chance to start again on a good footing. ✌️
B) the Course of the Chinese New Year
Beyond the family meals, we go out a lot in the street, where all the action takes place. We see parades, festivals, fireworks… in the popular custom, we find the Dance of the Dragon or the Dance of the Lion.
The Dragon Dance ?
The Dance of the Dragon has its origins in the Han Dynasty, and was used at the time to make rain fall and allow good harvests ?.
The Dragon costume is made of grass, bamboo, paper and fabric. Even the number of joints of the Dragon was thought so that it is not too heavy and the dance is fluid but above all not to bring bad luck: it is always built on an odd number of joints. ?
Some Dragons called “Fire Dragons” are very impressive because they hang lamps and candles on them, so at night it looks like a truly fiery dragon:
Once assembled, the Dragon’s body is placed in a local temple, and it can only be taken out on the day of the Dance. It will be accompanied by the local people who hold banners, flags, drum and play trumpets. ?
A person holds a cane with a ball at the top, the Dragon follows this ball. His body always moves in waves. There are about ten dancers, always in odd numbers, who make the Dragon dance.
After the dance, only the head and tail of the Dragon will be burned, then the body returns to the temple for the next year.
The Lion Dance ?
Like the Dragon, the lion, sacred animated in Chinese folklore also has its dance.
Again, the costumes are quite colorful. The main difference: where it will take dozens of people to do the dragon dance, there will be only 2 on average to do the Lion dance.
C) Chinese New Year Superstitions
The festival is surrounded by a good dose of superstition, which is precisely the point: the aim is to ward off bad luck as much as possible and to attract happiness and prosperity. We’ve prepared for you a small, non-exhaustive list of the greatest fears surrounding the celebration!
Do Not Touch Its Cleaning Products ?
Do not clean or tidy your house during the national holiday but before. It is strictly forbidden to clean the house, sweep up the dirt and take out the garbage on Lunar New Year’s Day, under penalty of bad luck ⛔.
Do Not Wash Hair ?
In the Chinese language, “hair” has the same Chinese character (“fa in facai”) as “getting rich”. To cut one’s hair or to wash it during the festive period is to get rid of one’s luck . Some people go as far as not washing at all for 15 days, just in case.
Do Not Wear Black ⚫
As a matter of principle, all colors are allowed (even if the emphasis is on red) except black for one reason: it is the color of funerals, burials and this in many cultures. It is therefore synonymous with unhappiness.
Avoid Even Numbers ?
As we have seen with the Dragon’s joints, even numbers bring bad luck. We avoid them as much as possible:
?To offer money, the total sum must be odd. The number “8” will bring luck ?
?To offer gifts, their number must also be odd. Certain types of objects are prohibited: umbrellas, sharp objects…
Don’t Tell Horror Stories ?
Although ghost and monster stories are very popular in China, it is forbidden to talk about death or horrible tales during this period. Forget about horror movies too, or death could be waiting for you for the next year. ⚰️
Sleeping Early ?
In the tradition, staying up late is a guarantee of longevity. The passage to the new year is therefore all about partying and sleeping as little as possible: we turn on the lights, beautiful Chinese lanterns that chase away the evil spirits from the house.
Chinese New Year in the World
Of course, China is not the only country that celebrates tradition. The Chinese community is present all over the world. Thus, for the first day of the year, a wave of migration takes place to China to gather and enjoy this celebration with the family. Do you want to know some of the cities that have celebrated the Spring Festival? ?
A) Chinese New Year in Paris
For Chinese New Year’s Eve, the Eiffel Tower is illuminated with the color red. Many colorful parades take place in the streets of Paris, on the Champs Elysees. Stands of Chinese food are installed. We find the major figures of the festival: The Dragon and the Lion. ?
B) Chinese New Year in New York
The party takes place in all 5 boroughs of New York at the same time, 5 times as many traditional parties! In Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Chinatown, a district of New York is naturally very popular for the event.
C) Chinese New Year in London
We find the same pattern: colorful parades, traditional music, rituals, traditional dances, martial arts, lions and especially a whole bunch of dragons. Here, it only lasts one day, but it’s intense.
D) Chinese New Year in Qatar
Yes, even Qatar celebrates the new year of the lunar calendar. The event is however smaller and more commercial, it is directly celebrated at the Dragon Mart, a very popular shopping mall.
E) Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur
The population of Kuala Lumpur is predominantly Muslim, and cohabits with Buddhists, Hindus…Malaysia’s capital accepts diversity. This is why the Chinese New Year is an event which has all its importance! Fireworks, songs, illuminated temples, firecrackers, Kung Fu demonstrations, parades…there is a wide range of choices. ?
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